Catholic Response on Immigration

Article excerpt

Maryada Vallet and Walt Staton, a couple in their late 20s and members of the group No Mas Muertes (No More Deaths) in Tucson, Ariz., narrated a slide show during a recent retreat in Kansas City, Mo., for 12 Midwestern Catholic Worker Houses. The focus of the retreat was a Catholic Worker response to the immigration crisis.

On the screen, a woman, exhausted and dehydrated, is lying on a cot as someone treats the huge blisters on her feet. She had been wandering in the desert with her 8-year-old daughter for two days after a 1,000-mile journey from Central America. In the past year, hundreds of others, less lucky, were found dead in the desert. Their stories are snapshots in the complex panorama of immigration.

Even before Pope Benedict landed in the United States last month, he addressed immigration as an issue that will determine the future of the Catholic church in America and will test the moral authority of U.S. bishops in shaping the debate over national policy.

Benedict's remarks reflected consistent papal teaching and a balanced approach from the U.S bishops: National borders must be respected, but the economic and political realities that drive immigration must also be acknowledged with an orderly, fair, humane system that addresses the inevitable flow of desperate people seeking to enter the United States to work, either temporarily or on a path to permanent legal status. Human dignity and family integrity must be paramount in any policy.

Who does not know by now that the current immigration system is badly broken, paralyzed by post-9/11 concerns about national security and distorted by vigilante groups and some media outlets? Who can deny our nation's dependence on immigrant workers or the desperate conditions in other countries--often caused by our own trade policies--that are pushing people to risk their lives for jobs most Americans won't do?

The failure of bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform by Congress in 2005 sent a message that no legal solution is at hand. …